GOALS from Russell Martin and Grant Holt were enough to see Norwich City past a depleted Queens Park Rangers at Carrow Road this afternoon.
The loss of influential duo of Joey Barton and Paddy Kenny hit the visitors hard with The Canaries dictating the flow in the opening period.
Martin’s second in two against Rangers compounded the early misery as the makeshift central defender was afforded the space to prod home after some mediocre defending.
Despite Luke Young, Danny Gabbidon and Hediar Helguson all carrying knocks, Rangers appeared reinvigorated midway through the second period.
Young was once again a surprise goalscorer, pouncing after Jamie Mackie’s effort bounced back off the upright, Grant Holt had the final say however, rising from the bench to place beyond a static Radek Cerny.
Disappoinment against the backdrop of the battle of the Britannia, but nevertheless an importance will now be placed on bouncing back against West Bromwich Albion at home.
Neil Warnock was forced into two changes for the trip to Norfolk with Paddy Kenny (glutes) forced to miss his first game of the campaign, while Joey Barton was suspended for his accumulated five bookings at Newcastle United and in W12.
Radek Cerny picked up his first start of the campaign behind a back four of Luke Young, Anton Ferdinand, Danny Gabbidon and Clint Hill.
The midfield quartet consisted of Jamie Mackie, Shaun Derry, Alejandro Faurlín and Armand Traoré with Shaun Wright-Phillips playing centrally just off lone forward Heidar Helguson.
Norwich started with John Ruddy behind a back four of Richie de Laet, Russell Martin, Leon Barnett and Marc Tierney.
Anthony Pilkington, Bradley Johnson, Andrew Crofts and Andrew Surman made up the midfield four with Simeon Jackson and Steve Morison leading the line for the Canaries.
KICK OFF: NORWICH CITY v QUEENS PARK RANGERS
Only one win for Rangers in their last 11 visits to Carrow Road, this is indeed not a happy hunting ground for the R’s as they faced a fellow promoted side for the first time in this Premier League campaign.
The pair were the stand-out teams in last year’s Championship campaign and have proven their presence is warranted in the top flight as they sit pretty in mid-table above several more established set-ups.
The atmosphere befitted the occasion as a capacity crowd greeted the players to the field at Carrow Road with Rangers looking for back to back away wins, while the hosts searched for a first victory in five fixtures.
The fixture started in a typically lively fashion with possession keenly-fought in the middle of the field. Ale Faurlín and Shaun Derry renewing their partnership as the engine room of the visitor’s line-up.
Norwich were predominantly searching for the power and aerial prowess of Steve Morison, with the movement of Simeon Jackson seeing the former Gillingham man drop into the channels and work the Rangers rearguard.
It was the latter who carved out the opening effort of the encounter when he was left unchallenged on the edge of the area. His stinging right-footed effort was well-fielded by the returning Radek Cerny who claimed with consummate ease.
While the fight was in evidence, Rangers were looking second best in the early offing, Morison the key tormentor to a bewildered back-line who appeared to be bullied all too easily by the Welsh international front-man.
A chance was engineered with breathtaking simplicity just moments later as the aforementioned front-man merely brushed off the intentions of skipper Anton Ferdinand before bearing down in goal.
Cerny came from his line to close the angle and to his credit forced Morison into an effort. The striker could only scuff straight into the grounded Czech ‘keeper, much to the proportionate relief and dismay of both sets of supporters.
No question that the Canaries were the team on top with QPR looking a shadow of the side that fought so valiantly for all three points at Stoke City. The front-line was largely anonymous with the hosts retaining possession with the greatest of ease.
The industrious Andrew Crofts saw his deflected effort go close, a deflected drive that Rangers were relieved to see drift wide of the right-hand upright. While seemingly innocuous it was a decisive factor in the opening goal.
Andrew Surman’s teasing centre was only partially cleared and the lack of urgency to clear the second ball allowed RUSSELL MARTIN to pounce and prod home his second of the campaign, and second against QPR in as many games at Carrow Road.
GOAL: NORWICH CITY 1-0 QUEENS PARK RANGERS
It was just reward for a dominant start by the hosts, who were good value for their advantage. Rangers by comparison seemed sluggish in attack and disjointed in defence, serving to highlight the influence of both Barton and the ever-present Kenny.
An odd scenario ensued moments later when Shaun Wright-Phillips broke free of his marker to latch onto a Heidar Helguson flick-on. The enterprising wide-man clipped the ball beyond the under-worked Ruddy before being knocked to the ground.
Mr Clattenberg remained unmoved, undeterred by the appeals and signalled for play to continue. It was a rare moment of respite and attacking endeavour from QPR who had found the early going tough indeed.
In riposte the Canaries fashioned another excellent opportunity, owing much to the ponderous defending of the Rangers rearguard. Another direct ball into the heart of the QPR defence was not dealt with adequately and Morison was afforded space on the edge of the area.
The striker was not closed as he carved out a powerful right-footed drive that drifted disappointingly away of the left-hand upright. More respite for Rangers who appeared mot certainly below the standards set over the preceding weeks.
At last however, Rangers awoke from their slumber as the half drew to a close, twice giving their excellent following something to chew over at half time, and perhaps taking the edge off an inevitable Neil Warnock tongue-lashing at the break.
First Wright-Phillips sent a teasing free-kick away from the grateful arms Ruddy on this occasion and inches beyond the far post and the forest of legs that lurched in the direction of the tantalising cross.
Fast forward a few minutes, another opportunity of note. Wright-Phillips again at the centre of proceedings as he drove forward on the right-hand edge of the area before shooting straight at Ruddy when well placed.
The ‘keeper spilled the effort as Mackie bore down on the target, but his first time effort from an acute angle was lashed into the side netting of the left-hand upright. This opportunity brought down the curtain on a first period that raised as many queries as answers.
HALF TIME: NORWICH CITY 1-0 QUEENS PARK RANGERS
Norwich came flying out of the traps once more and put the QPR defence under immediate pressure, with Morison once more the architect down the left flank – nevertheless Rangers no longer appeared in the mood to buckle.
Ale Faurlín was proving more influential, Jamie Mackie was starting to come out of his shell and a rearguard that hadn’t kept a clean sheet this campaign were starting to feel the pinch of the R’s attacking guile.
A slide-rule pass from Clint Hill found the diminutive Wright-Phillips in behind, who despite hitting the turf, inevitable performed his weebl impression to pop back up and clip an effort goal-bound – it drifted agonisingly wide of the right hand upright.
There was a lull in terms of opportunities, but the desire and endeavour on the park indicated that the two sides were certainly looking to display the competitive nature of the second tier on the Premier League stage.
Approaching the hour mark, Warnock made an astute tactical switch, Jay Bothroyd linking up with Helguson in attack and Hill made way with Armand Traoré dropping into the back four once more in a more natural left-back position.
Barely moments later and the change paid dividends with Mackie bursting the monotony of a lacklustre QPR display. The forward was all action in the second period and he tantalised Tierney before coming inside and firing an effort towards the left hand side of the target.
The ball cracked back off the left hand upright, but with the defence sat so deep, LUKE YOUNG was able to gallop into the area and power home his second in two games and his ninth career goal overall.
GOAL: NORWICH CITY 1-1 QUEENS PARK RANGERS
The greater attacking endeavour from the visiting side certainly contributed to their path back into this fixture. A side without a clean sheet must wait a little longer for their first shut-out after this neat finish – a second in successive weeks – from the rejuvenated full-back.
Enter Grant Holt and Wes Hoolahan at the expense of the lively Jackson and the wide-man Pilkington. The pair certainly looked lively on their introduction with Holt the customary battering ram and Hoolahan tricking his way into creative positions.
They proved to be a set of changes that swung the pendulum of momentum once more, and ultimately decided the encounter as the City substitutes carved out a goal of effortless simplicity.
The initial bursting run from Morison saw him chip a delightful far post cross to Holt whose header was excellent cleared from the line by Young. Once again however the defensive frailties let Rangers down as they failed to effectively clear their lines.
The ball was rounded off with the Irishman Hoolahan once more – he made a mockery not only of his defensive counter-part but also his position on the bench as his delightful cross drifted across the area for GRANT HOLT.
The striker capitalised on some hesitant ‘keeping from Cerny to drift beyond his marker and power home from the edge of the six yard box. A disappointing conclusion to a game on a knife edge but nevertheless City had the advantage.
GOAL: NORWICH CITY 2-1 QUEENS PARK RANGERS
While those looking at the overall picture may suggest that this killed the encounter as a spectacle, they weren’t anticipating QPR to throw the kitchen sink at their opponents. Going very close with little under ten minutes remaining.
Mackie and Young were the key players down the right flank with Norwich having to double up of the lively Scottish international – the relentless never-say-die attitude of the forward was proving a constant thorn in the side in a much-improved second period.
Young latched onto substitute Akos Buzsaky’s pass to clip a cross into the area – the wayward centre drifted over Ruddy’s head and tantalisingly dipped towards the target – the ball came back off the bar and was hammered away by a relieved rearguard.
Despite the late pressing, the impression was given that the cutting edge and scything pass was lacking and the frailties were highlighted when another substitute Tommy Smith misplaced his touch when excellently placed.
With that the final whistle was blown by Mr Clattenberg and justifiably Norwich City ran out victors. Despite a more spirited second half showing, it was the Canaries that took the spoils as Rangers are left to contemplate a six-pointer against West Bromwich Albion.
FINAL WHISTLE: NORWICH CITY 2-1 QUEENS PARK RANGERS
John Ruddy, Russell Martin (c), Bradley Johnson, Steve Morison, Andrew Crofts, Simeon Jackson (Grant Holt 70), Andrew Surman, Anthony Pilkington (Wesley Hoolahan 70), Leon Barnett, Marc Tierney, Richie De Laet (Kyle Naughton 58).
QUEENS PARK RANGERS
Radek Cerny, Clint Hill (Jay Bothroyd 58), Shaun Derry (Akos Buzsaky 78), Danny Gabbidon, Alejandro Faurlín, Jamie Mackie, Armand Traoré, Luke Young, Heidar Helguson, Shaun Wright-Phillips (Tommy Smith 79), Anton Ferdinand (c)